Travel and Expense

New Research Considers 2022 Impact on Business Travel

SAP Concur Team |

The initial findings from the fourth annual survey commissioned by SAP Concur, unveiled during the SAP Concur Travel Industry Summit in June, suggest that the return of business travel has important implications for talent attraction and retention.

But who are the global business travelers at risk of attrition, what are their expectations, and why is travel volume so closely tied to job satisfaction? Broader survey findings and a series of global white papers—all released today—provide further insights.

According to this year’s survey of 3,850 global business travelers across 25 markets and 700 global travel managers across seven markets:

Icon of a traveler with suitcase
Global Business Traveler Report 2022

These findings come from a survey of 3,850 business travelers across 25 global markets commissioned by SAP Concur through Wakefield Research. 

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Current levels of business travel are threatening job satisfaction

Overall willingness to travel is on par with 2021 at 98%, and nearly all global business travelers (96%) are eager to reclaim the advantages of travel this year. 

  • These advantages include personal benefits to be gained through business travel, such as experiencing new places and cultures (44%), going out to nice dinners and events (39%), and simply taking a break from everyday life (34%). 
  • Business travelers are also eager to restore aspects beneficial to their business, including the relationship-building opportunities of in-person connections (46%) and the productivity of in-person meetings (41%).

However, three in five business travelers (61%) report that their current travel schedule is falling short of their expectations. Many say a change in corporate travel direction may be to blame: Around four in five business travelers (82%) report their company is returning to pre-pandemic levels but with a “more travel on fewer shoulders” approach.

  • Nearly two in five business travelers (39%) want to travel more, while 22% want to travel less.
  • Executives are more likely to say they’re traveling more than they like (30%) compared to non-executives (17%). Also, more executives strongly agree (39%) that their company is taking a “more travel on fewer shoulders” approach than non-executives (25%).
  • Business travelers at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)—defined for the purpose of this survey as companies with fewer than 1,000 employees—are more likely to be traveling less than they’d prefer right now. Nearly two in five (39%) report that they are traveling less than they want, compared to under a third of business travelers from companies with 1,000-plus employees (32%). Additionally, business travelers from larger companies are more likely to say they’re traveling more than they’d like (27%) than those from SMBs (21%).
  • Those in Europe are particularly likely to be traveling less than they desire (44%), compared to those in the Americas (37%) and APAC (35%). Travelers in APAC (28%) and the Americas (25%) are more likely than those in Europe (15%) to report traveling more than they prefer right now.

Nearly one in four business travelers who are not traveling at their ideal frequency (23%) say they’ll look for a new position if their travel schedule doesn’t improve. 

  • Thirty-five percent of Gen Z say they will look for a new position if things don’t improve, compared to 24% of millennials, 20% of Gen X, and 16% of baby boomers.
  • In general, Gen Z is more likely to take action if things don’t change: 63% of Gen Z business travelers say they will do something, compared to 49% of millennials, 39% of Gen X, and 34% of baby boomers.

Why is travel volume so closely tied to job satisfaction? Our 2021 survey found that the ability to travel directly impacts personal growth.

  • The majority of business travelers—68%—said they were pushing for a return to business travel, while just 32% felt their company was requiring them to do so.
  • Four in five business travelers worried that unless they increased business travel last year, their company (80%) and they personally (80%) would suffer.
  • Professional concerns included the ability to develop and maintain business connections (45%), making less money (38%), and not advancing in their career (33%).

 

The return of business travel calls for a policy reshuffle

But that doesn’t mean travelers are willing to compromise on their newly elevated expectations for business travel. In fact, those expectations remain largely unchanged from 2021

  • In 2022, 91% consider some flexible travel and booking options as essential for their company to allow to protect their health and safety when they travel for business—compared to 89% in 2021.

Additionally, business travelers are feeling empowered to decline a business trip if it doesn’t match their expectations or comfort level. Overall, 91% of business travelers say they are willing to decline a business trip assigned to them.

  • APAC travelers are most likely to decline a business trip (94%, compared to 91% in Europe and 90% in the Americas).
  • Safety concerns for traveling to certain parts of the world is the most common reason business travelers say they’d decline a business trip, with over half of business travelers (53%) saying they’d do so. In fact, four in five business travelers (82%) say their business travel has been impacted by the war in Ukraine.
  • Half of business travelers (51%) are willing to decline a business trip their company assigns if they have COVID-19 related health concerns about it.
  • A quarter of business travelers (26%) are willing to nix a business trip assigned by their company if they’re feeling burnt out with travel and need a break.
  • A quarter of business travelers (24%) would decline a trip assigned to them if it required using non-sustainable travel options.

However, given the power dynamics in today’s labor market, business travelers intend to ask for more in order to accept a position that requires more travel: 92% say they’d need additional salary, benefits, or travel flexibility to make a move.

  • While nearly three in five (59%) would want a larger salary and/or bonus to take a position that requires more travel than their current one, others could be attracted by benefits to make their work more enjoyable. Nearly two in five business travelers (39%) would need additional vacation time, and nearly as many (37%) want the ability to work from home as a lure. 
  • Additional vacation time would be of particular interest for business travelers in APAC, where 44% say this could attract them to a position with more travel.
  • Successfully attracting executives to positions requiring additional travel may take more than higher salaries and bonuses. In fact, little more than half of executive-level business travelers would take a position with more travel based on this perk (51%).
  • While nearly two in three business travelers at larger companies (65%) would need an increase in salary or a bonus to accept a position with more travel, just over half of travelers from SMBs (55%) say more pay is a must.

 

Travel departments face new pressures in a turbulent landscape

The travel industry has had myriad challenges in 2022, including lingering health and safety concerns associated with COVID-19, increasing travel costs, and rampant travel cancellations and delays. In fact, business travelers are more concerned about travel cancellations and delays (61%) than the typically dreaded task of filing the expense report for their trip (39%).

In turn, we’ve seen a noted shift in stress levels before, during, and after business travel. Nearly two in five global business travelers (38%) say that during the trip is the most stressful stage of travel—a seven-point increase from the 31% of business travelers who said this in 2021.

Chart showing the most stressful stages of a business trip

More than half of travel managers (55%) report their job is already as stressful or more now than during the previous year, and all surveyed travel managers (100%) expect their role to be more challenging in the next 12 months compared to last year. 

  • Nearly half of global travel managers (49%) report the stress is caused by increased scrutiny from above, through increasing pressure from senior leadership to demonstrate the ROI of their role.
  • Forty-nine percent of travel managers anticipate challenges adjusting to frequent staffing changes, and 47% anticipate the challenge of accommodating more travelers in secondary markets and smaller towns.
  • Half of travel managers (50%) say the increasing number of expense reports will add challenges to their job in the coming year, and two in five (40%) say the same about increasing travel volume. Nearly as many travel managers predict challenges from reduced travel budgets (39%) and adjusting to staffing changes in their department (36%).

“Year-over-year changes in business travelers’ stress levels are some of the most telling findings about the state of business travel,” said Charlie Sultan, president of Concur Travel. “They remind us that industry challenges aren’t theoretical. In these moments of change—the pandemic, the Great Resignation, and inflation—the impacts are very real, and global business travelers are feeling and experiencing them directly.”

This year’s survey also offers insights into sustainability trends, generational differences among business travelers, and more. Download our new global white papers—on business traveler, travel manager, and SMB survey responses—and stay tuned for upcoming deep-dive analysis on the SAP Concur blog.

 

The SAP Concur global business traveler survey was conducted by Wakefield Research between April 28 and May 23, 2022, among 3,850 business travelers, defined as those who traveled for business three-plus times in the past 24 months, in 25 markets: U.S., Canada, Brazil, Mexico, LAC (Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Argentina), UK, France, Germany, ANZ region (Australia and New Zealand), SEA region (Singapore and Malaysia), China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, India, Korea, Italy, Spain, Dubai, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg), South Africa, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. Data has been weighted to facilitate tracking.

The SAP Concur global travel manager survey was conducted by Wakefield Research between April 28 and May 23, 2022, among 700 travel managers, defined as those who direct or administer travel programs for businesses, across seven markets: France, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, SEA Countries (Malaysia and Singapore), UK, and U.S. Data has been weighted to facilitate tracking.
 

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